Wednesday, November 11, 2009

These United States of America (Part Three)

Otis Taylor - My Soul's In Louisiana (White African, 2001)

As an aging musician who 'retired' for almost 20 years before returning in 1995, Otis Taylor doesn't have any need to beat around the bush, and his 2001 album White African addressed, among other things, the lynching of his great-grandfather and the murder of his uncle. Here, he tackles the wrongful execution of a black man accused of killing a railroad brakeman - that railroad theme expressed in the simple, driving rhythm of the song.

Nina Simone - Mississippi Goddam (Nina Simone In Concert, 1964)

Another song tackling the South's troubled past in race-relations, this was written as a response to the murder of Medgar Evans in Mississippi, as well as the infamous church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. An impassioned plea for equality, the song was later performed during civil rights marches in which Simone took part.

The Felice Brothers - T For Texas (Tonight At The Arizona, 2007)

These esteemed students of American musical history give their own take on the Jimmy Rodgers classic. Perhaps there were more, well, Texan choices for this slot, but few songs would rival the quality of this.

The Silver Jews - Tennessee (Bright Flight, 2001)

Only California could rival Tennessee for the sheer number of songs sung about it, but that is little surprise - not when everyone is recording either in Nashville or Memphis. Given so many choices, so many of them from country music royalty, we gave up trying to pick between them and instead went leftfield with this marvellous little slice of pop from the Silver Jews.

Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys - Blue Moon of Kentucky (Blue Moon of Kentucky, 1947)

If we went leftfield in Tennessee, we've played it absolutely straight just over the border in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This is pretty much the anthem of the Bluegrass State, and, while this is the original by the man who wrote it, it was later covered by everyone from Patsy Cline to Paul McCartney via Elvis Presley.

Ray Charles - Georgia On My Mind (The Genius Hits The Road, 1960)

Written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael, Georgia on My Mind had to wait 30 years to become a hit, taken to those heights by Albany native Ray Charles. Nineteen years later, it was named the state's official song.

Ryan Adams - Oh My Sweet Carolina (Heartbreaker, 2000)

Jacksonville native Adams has long been fond of singing of his home state, first with Whiskeytown and later in his solo work. This is the finest of the bunch, from his first solo album, given just a little extra something special by having the great Emmylou Harris on backing vocals.

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